The Sea, The Sea

I managed to miss Storm Ophelia passing across the British Isles last week when I flew out to Portugal, but I certainly felt the effects of Storm Brian at the end of the week. I returned to London on Friday, and had my third visit with the Wimbledon group on Saturday morning. As with Hebden Bridge, the energy and enthusiasm, particularly of Alan the organiser, but of all the members of the sangha, is inspiring, and we had a great discussion of the Fukanzazengi. Afterwards I was picked up by my friend to go and spend a day down on the south coast at their beach chalet. We drove down into a fierce headwind, and took a walk along a spit comprising one part of Chichester Harbour, where we felt the full force of the wind blowing in off the channel, whipping sand along the beach.

Even though the chalet was very snug, it was getting buffeted all night by the gales, which did not make for a great sleep, and the idea of another beach run in the morning did not seem very sensible. It was still nice to be out in the elements, getting a big dose of fresh air, and some sunshine; we started the return journey with a decent waterside pub lunch, and a walk around Bosham, which is, as so many old English villages are, comfortingly pretty and nourishingly historic for me.

I had at least managed three beach runs in Sagres. The first had been rather curtailed by the rain, the second took in both of the town beaches at low tide, and the last on Friday took in the beach closer to the harbour and the cliffs beyond, just as the sky flashed pink with the sunrise.

There were few people out at that time, and up on the cliffs I only had the company of the sea birds, which were large, and the ‘land’ birds, which were all tiny. It brought to mind cliff running in Cornwall, though these paths were very rocky, and at one moment when I tried to look further ahead to determine which way I needed to point myself, I brought to life the line from the Fukanzazengi I had been chewing over (for its echoes of the Harmony of Difference and Equality): ‘If you make one misstep, you stumble past what is directly in front of you.’ And that is why I love running out in nature like that, the fact that speed is less an issue than effort and concentration.

Coming back along the beach, mine were still the only footprints across the hard sand; I resisted the temptation to try to outpace myself and take longer strides, though it can happen that I am more measured on the way out and pushing harder on the way back. This time I was content just to be out on a warm morning in such beautiful surroundings. Ahead of all the traveling to get back to San Francisco, it was a wonderful respite, several days when I was not tracking the passing of time, and had no need to.

I am writing this from the departure lounge at Heathrow, where I am tracking the time before my flight. I was about to write ‘ I have a lot of time to kill’, but I do take pleasure in this transitional space, sometimes people watching, sometimes doing a little meditation (as I often offer as a possibility when I am doing zazen instruction), and this time, seeing if I can wrestle pictures and links into a blog post on my iPad, which can be a real practice of patience…


I also had time on Friday morning for a final walk along an almost empty Tonel beach.


Late afternoon sunshine over Chichester Harbour on Saturday.


Not as warm as Portugal, and much windier, but equally dramatic.


It might not show, but there was a fierce wind whipping off the sea.


Bosham church, posing nicely.


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